HAMILTON, Ohio (ABC4) — The Easter Sunday Massacre happened March 30 in 1975 when a man shot and killed eleven members of his family in his mother’s house. As of March 2023, it is the deadliest mass shooting in Ohio.
James U. Ruppert, 41, after several trials, was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder. He was found not guilty of the other nine counts after he pleaded insanity. According to the Encyclopedia of Mass Murder, Ruppert received two life sentences to be served consecutively at Allen Correctional Institution. He passed away in 2022 at age 88.
On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, Ruppert’s brother Leonard Jr., 42, and his wife Alma, 38, brought their eight children over to their mother’s house for Easter activities. Ruppert was reportedly living there at the time. While the other family members participated in an Easter egg hunt on the front lawn that morning, Ruppert reportedly stayed upstairs, “sleeping off a night of drinking.”
Later that afternoon, at approximately 4 p.m. Ruppert loaded a .357 Magnum, two .22 caliber handguns, and a rifle and went downstairs. Leonard Jr. and Alma were in the kitchen with their mother, Charity, who was preparing sloppy joes. Most of their children were in the living room.
According to the encyclopedia, when Ruppert came downstairs, Leonard Jr. asked him about his car, which Ruppert allegedly took as an insult. He then shot him in the head. Afterward, he shot Alma, his mother Charity, and all of his nieces and nephews; David, 11, Teresa, 9, Carol, 13, Ann, 12, Leonard III, 17, Michael, 16, Thomas, 15, and John, 4. The massacre was reportedly over in less than two minutes.
Authorities said Ruppert used three pistols and a rifle to fire 44 shots, 40 of which hit his victims, the AP news reported. According to the encyclopedia, there was so much blood on the first floor, it dripped through the floorboards into the basement. The bodies of the eight children were found dead scattered in two of the first-floor rooms of the house.
After several hours in the house, Ruppert finally called the police and said, “there’s been a shooting.” He then waited inside the front door for authorities to arrive.
During the hearings, a psychiatrist said that Ruppert lay on a couch for two hours after the shootings and contemplated suicide. Ruppert told him it would have been a mortal sin to commit suicide and that he didn’t want it to be his last act, so he instead called the police.
According to the encyclopedia, the night before the massacre, on Ruppert’s 41st birthday, he went out to drink at the 19th Hole Cocktail Lounge and told an employee that he was frustrated with his mother’s demands on him and that he needed to solve the problem. Earlier that day witnesses saw Ruppert engaging in target practice with his .22 pistol and .22 rifle, the encyclopedia stated.
The trial was held in Hamilton, Ohio in June 1975, where Ruppert was declared guilty of 11 counts of murder. It was later declared a mistrial, and the retrial was in Findlay because it was believed he would not receive a fair trial in Hamilton. Ruppert received 11 consecutive life sentences, at his second trial.
Ruppert made an appeal and was granted a new trial in 1982. He hired defense attorney Hugh D. Holbrock, who believed his client to be insane and personally funded the hiring of expert psychiatrists and psychologists. After Ruppert’s third and final trial, he was found guilty of two counts of murder, and not guilty on the other nine counts. Capital punishment was suspended in the United States from 1972-1976, so the death penalty was never on the table for Ruppert.
Ruppert was reported to have had a troubled life. His mother, Charity, allegedly told him she would have preferred to have a daughter as her second child; and his father, Leonard, had a violent temper, the encyclopedia stated. Their father died in 1947 when Ruppert was 12, and Leonard Jr. was 14.
According to the encyclopedia, Leonard jr. became the father figure of the family and allegedly picked on Ruppert during their upbringing, including taunting him for being a weakling. At 16, Ruppert ran away from home and tried committing suicide by hanging himself with a sheet, after he failed, he returned home.
Ruppert said he was envious of his older brother’s successful job and family. By 1975, Ruppert, 41, was a college dropout, unemployed, unmarried, and still living with his mother. His brother on the other hand had earned a degree in electrical engineering, married an ex-girlfriend of Ruppert, owned his own home in Fairfield Ohio, and had eight children.
According to the encyclopedia, Ruppert’s mother was frustrated with his inability to hold a steady job, and the fact that he was constantly drinking. According to Ruppert, she had threatened to evict him from her home several times.
After the massacre, the house was cleaned, recarpeted, and since the massacre, several families have moved in and out, most of which were unaware of the massacre. Because the state categorizes homicide as a “psychological stigma,” real estate agents are not required to tell potential buyers about it.